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By William Gallois

Utilizing newly-discovered documentation from the French army information, A historical past of Violence within the Early Algerian Colony deals a finished research of the kinds of violence followed through the French military in Africa. Its insurance levels from special case stories of massacres to the query of even if a genocide happened in Algeria.

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One thing both contemporary sources and later historians such as Ageron and Julien are agreed upon is that the early colony was a confusing place. Algeria had been attacked and acquired in a state of some uncertainty and the first decade of French rule was marked by both intellectual and bureaucratic turmoil as competing interest groups fought to define what the colony was for (and indeed against the plural voices in France which advocated a swift end to the Algerian experiment). ’103 Metropolitan audiences demanded meaning from new imperial possessions, which in many senses provided a tremendous opportunity for groups such as soldiers and doctors to generate easily comprehended explanatory models which explained how a colony had come into being, how it should be made and what it would contribute to France.

Indeed, a case can be made that the ‘interminable’, ‘long and difficult’ struggle in which ‘The French army faced strong resistance’ was essentially chimeric and a poor description of the encounters between soldiers and Indigènes at this moment. While Stora’s assertion, for instance, appears plausible, a more critical review of the period ought to ask whether his use of the term ‘country’ is in any sense adequate in terms of framing the space of French operations in the period before an Algerian national space was completed, while we have seen that the ‘holy war’ which was invoked by Islamists at this moment was a far more complex, nuanced and often rhetorical device than would seem to be the case in his plain invocation of an idea of jihad.

79 This animalisation of the Algerian foe and a concomitant equation of men with nature was quite typical, for it seemed understandable that locals should be dogged, rugged, hardy foes, given the environment in which they lived. Buret also hinted that the army’s difficulty in distinguishing between combatants and civilians was an inconvenience brought by locals upon themselves (for they could surely find few reasons to complain when soldiers behaved as though such distinctions did not matter). 82 Among other things, such words were telling for the manner in which the Arab was absented even as he was figured in prose, for here we read not of ‘their land’ but ‘the land’ and the narrowness of the French imagination is revealed in the manner in which Ducuing is certain that Algerian attacks on French troop are a form of ‘brigandage’.

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